The Belly Button Festival
A little younger than most other festivals, the Hokkai Heso Matsuri aka The Belly Button Festival was founded in 1969 as an initiative for the people of Furano, a city in Hokkaido, to unify. Geographically the population of the area is spread across a large mass of land, so the city needed a reason to gather. So what better reason than to celebrate the bellybutton?
In its early days the event struggled to gain momentum, in fact the first ever event reportedly saw just 11 people turn up. Over time however the humorous celebration saw a swell in popularity and today thousands gather to admire the show which features dancers who have painted their bellybuttons to look like a face.
This strange image of a bunch of half-naked men is actually the Kokusekiji Sominsai, a festival with a history of more than 1000 years in which the men are struggling to get a bag that has "sominsai" printed on it. The man who has it in the end is said to be blessed. All these men fighting with all their hearts in the bitter cold to become blessed makes it closer to a sport than a festival.
Actually, this festival is open to anyone who applies, but there are rules like you cannot eat meat, fish, eggs, or garlic for a week before the festival, so it is actually pretty difficult.
Japan’s most infamous and maybe most bizarre festival is the Kanamura Matsuri, or the ‘Festival of the Steel Phallus’, held in Kawasaki every April 15th. During the event a huge statue shaped like men’s pride is carried around while people pray for fertility, easy delivery and good health. You can also buy gifts and candies shaped like phalluses.
Did your parents ever threaten that monsters were coming to get you if you did not behave? Well then just be thankful you did not grow up in Miyakojima-shi city in Okinawa, because here is where all your childhood nightmares come true.
During Paantu Punaha festivities locals dress up as the incredibly spooky Paantu, a supernatural being covered in mud and foliage. Their aim is to cover everything they see in mud, including bystanders. The event’s activities are all a form of exorcism, an attempt expel evil spirits and bring good fortune to the town and its people.
Rokugo no Takeuchi
The sight of people hitting each other with plenty of bamboo will make you think you are in the Warring States period. Since it is a furious battle, there are injuries. The scariest part is that in the beginning the bamboo is really long and once it breaks it becomes sharp enough to be very dangerous.
Maybe one of the most dangerous events in Japan is the Onbashira Festival which is held only every 6 years during April and May in Suwa City, Nagano. People cut down huge trees and slide down on the 15 meter long, weighing more than 10 ton logs. Many injuries and even deaths were reported, maybe that is why the festival is held only every six years.